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IFJ urges authorities to uphold post-Olympic press freedom promises

(IFJ/IFEX) - 3 February 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply frustrated by reports that a number of China-based foreign journalists have been barred from entering ethnic Tibetan areas to investigate a series of recent self-immolation incidents.

According to a CNN report, Chinese authorities have imposed a security cordon preventing journalists from entering ethnic Tibetan areas of China's southern Sichuan Province. It is reported that journalists were barred from entering the area by police in Sichuan, citing a variety of excuses.

Other foreign journalists report being followed by unidentified people, being escorted by police back to the airport, being questioned over multiple hours by police, being forced to delete images from their cameras and having their research and writing materials confiscated.

According to the Article 17 of China's Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists, foreign journalists are free to interview all individuals in China once they have obtained the interviewee's consent.

“It is very disappointing that China's Public Security Bureau has failed to comply with the regulations introduced after the Olympic Games. These regulations not only provide foreign journalists freedom to publish articles, but also imply freedom of movement in the exercising of their reporting duties”, IFJ Asia- Pacific office said.

“However, having witnessed an increasing number of cases of foreign journalists being barred from reporting on stories of great public interest, we have reason to believe that Chinese authorities no longer intend to honour these promises”.

The IFJ calls for the Chinese authorities to abide by their own regulations, and allow foreign journalists freedom of movement in the exercise of their duties.

The IFJ also urges the Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobo to honour his promises of improved press freedom, and demand the Public Security Bureau immediately ensure its officers adhere to the regulations protecting the rights of journalists and investigate any violations of these regulations.

During the aftermath of calls for a so-called "Chinese jasmine revolution" in March 2011, many foreign journalists complained that Chinese authorities unilaterally changed the requirements for reporting. Journalists were required to seek permission before entering certain locations deemed sensitive, such as Wangfujing Street in the country's capital, Beijing. This rolling back of press freedoms was reported by the IFJ in its recent release, China's New Clampdown: Press Freedom in China 2011.

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